Saturday, October 13, 2012

Here Comes the Boom [2012]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  Michael Phillips (2 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Michael Phillips' review

Here Comes the Boom (directed by Frank Coraci, written by Kevin James, Rock Ruben and Allen Loab) is a nice, feel good story about a (fictional) Boston area high school biology teacher, Scott Voss (played by Kevin James) who though initially burnt out and depressed, could not bring himself to give-up on the school, teaching, the kids, others and his own life.

Yes, he was getting older, flabby, _wasn't_ exactly "livin' the dream," and yes he was "tired" at the beginning of the film: When a young, bright eyed Filipino girl named Malia (played by Charice) asked him a question about a discrepancy she had found between what their biology textbook said about something and what she found on the internet, he just responded with some iritation: "Malia, it really doesn't matter.  There's nothing that you're going to learn in this class that you're ever going to apply in your real life."  Saddened / deflated, she just slinks back into her chair ...

But after being first struck by the simple goodness and remaining enthusiasm of an older music teacher, Marty Streb (played marvelously by an older Henry Winkler, who people of my generation remember as the young "Fonz" of Happy Days [1974-1984]), and finding out only a short time later at a faculty meeting that "due to budgetary considerations," the (as Voss) similarly frustrated/discouraged/angry/cynical Principal Betcher (played by Greg Germann) was going to "ax all non-essential extracurricular programs" at the school come next year, including specifically Marty Streb's music program, Voss has had enough.

Typical of Kevin James' roles, Voss initially doesn't have any idea what to do.  But upset at the injustice of seeing perhaps _the only teacher_ on the school's staff left with any enthusiasm about what he was doing facing the budgetary chopping block (and there's really even more to it than that, Marty Streb had told him earlier in the day that in his / his wife's old age -- she was 48, he was simply "old" -- they just found out that they are going to have a baby) Voss was just not going to let this stand.  He tells the Principal "we" (meaning the faculty) will raise the money ourselves (meaning, initially certainly that _he_ was going to raise the money himself)" to save Marty Streb's job/program.  Okay, but how?

Initially,  Voss has no idea.  But as he stumbles along, opportunities open up for him.  He decides on a whim to start teaching a night class again (for immigrants preparing to take their citizenship exam).  It seems like a boneheaded, _completely inadequate_ response to the need to raise $55K before the end of the school year.  (For each class he gets paid something like $75).  BUT one has to start somewhere... In the class, he meets an entire classroom full of adults all, like James, basically simple but hard working/good hearted people trying to eek out a living and, in as much is possible, to "do the right thing."

Among the people he meets is a Slavic or otherwise East European exercise instructor / "trainer" named Niko (played by Bas Rutten).  Niko has a good heart but feeling that he had perhaps more muscles than brains, asks James for more (private) help on preparing for his citizenship exam.  It was an additional, small "gig," but what the heck, why not?

Well when he comes to tutor Niko at his place, he finds that Niko and his friends are there eyes glued to the television set to watch a Mixed Martial Arts match.  The match proves to be a monumental disappointment.  One of the two fighters is pinned/knocked out something like 10 seconds. In disgust, Niko exclaims "and he got 10 grand for that" Voss responds: "For losing??" "Yes!  And the winner got 50K!"  Now for Voss who, flabby as he was now, had wrestled in college _that_ was real money!  And the rest of the movie proceeds from there...

The Principal initially thinks that Voss is an idiot.  But Voss doesn't care.  He tells him, "If I had a better plan I'd take it, but I don't.  This is the best that I can do."  And by subjecting himself to getting beaten up, and yes, progressively improving, Voss slowly becomes an inspiration to the whole school, to everyone, to the faculty including another teacher (or perhaps the school nurse) Bella Flores (played by Salma Hayek) who initially considered Voss to be _perhaps_ a "nice guy" but mainly a "going nowhere loser," to the Principal, to his own brother Eric (played by Gary Valentine) and his brother's family.

Voss even rediscovers his enthusiasm for teaching.  He tells students at one point that even on the cellular level (action and inaction) is contagious: A cell that's progressively becoming more dormant (or dying) puts other cells neighboring it progressively to sleep, while a cell that simply comes to "vibrate" awakens and increases the motabolism of the surrounding cells as well.

It all makes for a pretty good lesson!  And what I particularly liked was Voss' (James character's) willingness _to simply begin_ not with a complete plan, but to simply take the first steps into an unknown ... and then discovering that by simply _willing to try_ "opportunities" open up.  IN MY OWN LIFE, I've found this to be true.  And I would maintain that there is even a theological basis for such optimism/initiative: We're told _repeatedly_ in the Biblical Scriptures to (1) "not be afraid," and (2) to say "Yes" to Life and what it brings us.

So good job Kevin James, et al!  Good job!


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